Man who killed mother, teen gains hearing on bid to leave psychiatric hospital

A Howard County man confined to a state psychiatric hospital since he killed his mother and a teenage girl in the family's home a dozen years ago may have a chance for a conditional release after the state's top court ruled the decision to keep him at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center was reached incorrectly.

The ruling Monday by the Court of Appeals means Benjamin Morgan Hawkes could ultimately live in an outside facility while receiving psychiatric care.

Hawkes was 25 when charged with fatally bludgeoning and stabbing his 59-year-old mother, Mary Jane Hawkes, and Teena Wu, 18, in the Hawkes' Ellicott City home in February 2001.

He was found not criminally responsible for the homicides based on mental illness, and was in treatment at Perkins. He eventually gained privileges that included attending classes at Howard Community College.

In 2009, when an administrative law judge recommended a release from Perkins with conditions, Howard County Deputy State's Attorney Mary V. Murphy challenged it in the county's Circuit Court, where prosecutors told a judge Hawkes had eaten some of his mother's brain matter. The release motion was denied, as was an appeal, but the top court ruled Monday that Howard County Circuit Judge Diane O. Leasure relied on too stringent a standard in denying Hawkes' request.

The Court of Appeals said in new hearings — which have not been scheduled — an administrative judge will consider a conditional release in a residential treatment facility recommended by the state.

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